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City police budget increase could be as high as 4.8%

Under direction from city council, board managed to whittle down forecasted 6.1% hike
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(File)

Facing a 6.1-per-cent budget hike, Greater Sudbury Police Service has managed to find enough savings to lower the increase to just under five per cent.

Following a two-hour meeting Monday, members of the Police Services Board approved cost-savings measures that will see a budget increase of either 4.7 per cent or 4.8 per cent. The final amount will be tabled Tuesday morning in a special meeting.

Going into budget discussions, GSPS was asked by city council to keep its budget increase to 3.9 per cent or less. In order to achieve that, Greater Sudbury Police needs to shave off $1.4 million in spending.

Police Chief Paul Pedersen presented a budget totalling $59,419,559 to board members, as well as a number of options to consider.

To get to 4.8 per cent, Greater Sudbury Police will pause its volunteer program, close its storefront offices, delay the hiring of two constables, and redistribute workload, victim referral and records workflow services. As well, GSPS plans not to fill for this year gaps left by officers retiring, cancel out-of-town travelling costs, and instead of a planned $750,000 contribution to its facilities reserve fund for a new building, the board decided it would contribute $500,000.

The board had considered removing the forecasted two-per-cent inflation from its accounts, however, board members voted to keep that in the budget. 

Last year, the board cut its contribution to the facilities reserve fund in half, putting in only $250,000 of the $500,000 it would normally contribute each year. The plan was to recoup that cost this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic happened, said Pedersen. 

“If we delay the contribution to the facilities reserve, it could mean a delay of another year for a facility that was needed in 2014,” Pedersen said. “If you take out the contribution this year, it doesn’t mean it goes away.”

The current police facility on Brady Street cannot be renovated to meet the demands of today’s police service going forward 50 years, said Pedersen. 

Volunteer programs are optional, said Pedersen. The work police volunteers do great work, he said, but the adequacy standards don’t require GSPS to have a volunteer program, or to have storefronts, and by putting a pause on them for 2021, it will save a combined $155,000.

“I put these options forward reluctantly, and transparently, so that when a number like 3.9 per cent comes at us, this shows how it will impact our service delivery,” Pedersen said. “It might only be this year, and next year they flow back into our budget, but next year’s budget will be that much more as we look to repopulate the pieces we are pausing this year.”

Pedersen will present the budget to city council on Jan. 19. He said he’s hopeful city council will approve of the budget.

“I’m hopeful council sees we’ve done everything we possibly can to reduce our budget, but still ensure we deliver on the expectations from our community,” said Pedersen. “At the end of day, our business hasn’t stopped due to COVID-19, and it’s only gotten more challenging.

“These are reductions that will impact service levels, but I hope those service levels still allow us to deliver adequate and effective policing for this community. Any cut above what we included in our recommendations would have started impacting legislated responsibilities, and it would have had a significant impact on our ability to deliver adequate and effective policing services.”